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In my private practice, one of the areas I specialize in is helping people recover from eating disorders.  This time of year, I am very aware of how scary and anxiety producing the holidays can be for those who struggle with eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.  With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I want to share some tips on how you can prepare and cope this year if you are struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder.

We live in a food-centric society and the holidays are no exception.  In fact, holiday celebrations often bring our culture’s focus on food to the forefront of awareness.  Many of us find ourselves navigating numerous social events and family gatherings with copious amounts of food, and this can be particularly difficult if you suffer from an eating disorder or are in recovery.  There are ways to manage during the holidays and reduce your anxiety about eating at parties and social events.  Here are a few things you can try this holiday season to maintain balance and flexibility around food and your thoughts:

  • Do not go into a social event or holiday meal overly hungry or skip meals in anticipation of what you might eat (i.e. fasting before Thanksgiving dinner).
  • Eat regularly and maintain a reasonable and moderate pattern of eating.
  • Be mindful of your body’s needs and be flexible around meal times.
  • Plan ahead for parties and holiday meals by preparing and taking a dish that you know you can eat and enjoy.
  • If you are working with a dietitian, ask him or her to help you plan for holiday gatherings and hold you accountable to your meal plan.  You can also ask a trusted friend, family member, or partner to support you.
  • If you are in therapy, talk to your therapist about potential triggers, sources of anxiety, and ways of coping with and managing overwhelming feelings and challenging situations during this holiday season.
  • Communicate your needs to friends and family members and have an “exit strategy” ready if you need to get away and connect to support.
  • Practice flexibility with your thoughts and work on letting go of rigidity, perfectionism, criticism, and judgments.
  • Be gentle with yourself.  Acknowledge that the holidays can be a challenging time and hold any difficult thoughts, judgments, or feelings lightly.

I think one of the hardest things about the holiday season is that there is an expectation that it is the “happiest time of the year” when for some it isn’t.  For people with an eating disorder or in recovery, the holidays can be a time of intense fear, anxiety, and stress.  If you find yourself struggling with ED behaviors, feeling too full after a meal, eating “forbidden” foods, or engaging in emotional eating – focus on moving forward rather than judging yourself.  Be compassionate with yourself and practice forgiveness.

Are you struggling with an eating disorder or in recovery and looking for support?  To schedule an appointment, contact me today at catherine@embracestrengthcounseling or visit my website for more information about my services.  I offer a free initial consultation and would be happy to talk to you and share how I can help.